Wondering if you’ve been sexually harassed? Don’t agonise in silence.
AWARE’s Letter to the ST Forum published March 15 2010
There are two issues that concern us in this matter.
Firstly, the issue puts paid to the notion that a husband’s extra-marital affairs are acceptable as long as he is discreet. The public outcry shows that the assumptions as to men’s and women’s roles and responsibilities in the family have changed.
Women today will not swallow the pain and hurt of a betrayal without complaint. They will not accept that a husband’s infidelity is “unavoidable”, no matter how successful he is. The strength and cohesiveness of families is dependent on both partners treating each other with love and respect.
Secondly, the drama has drawn attention to a problem which is common but rarely talked about: workplace sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is any conduct of a sexual nature – verbal, visual or physical – that is unwelcome or offensive. This excludes any behaviour which is consensual – when both parties are willing, there is no harassment.
Some of the women involved reported that Mr. Neo used the carrot of career promotions to get to know them. This is a classic form of sexual harassment known as “Quid Pro Quo” harassment, characterised by an authority figure offering a subordinate career benefits (for instance “a bigger role”) in exchange for sexual favours.
It is not uncommon for a pattern of sexual harassment to go undetected for a long time. Many cases go unreported because victims feel isolated, blame themselves or simply because they are unsure that they have been victimised.
Maelle Meurzec, who was a subject of Mr. Neo’s attention when she was 16, described the feelings of many women in this situation: “…we want to tell ourselves that the man is only trying to be friends. We are scared that we are over-analysing things.”
Sexual harassment is very common. In a 2008 study conducted by AWARE, 54% of the 500 participants surveyed reported having been sexually harassed at work. This includes both men and women.
Anyone wondering whether they are being sexually harassed should not agonise in silence. They should consult friends, a trusted colleague, their HR department or call AWARE’s helpline at 1800-7745935.
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